Published: 05:00, 28 October 2021
| Updated: 11:10, 28 October 2021
Have Maidstone ever had one of their players called up for World Cup qualifiers?
Probably not, but it may well happen next month with on-loan striker Hady Ghandour a current Lebanon international.
He made his debut in a 1-0 defeat against South Korea last month and was in the squad for the double-header with Iraq and Syria before joining the Stones on a month-long deal from Charlton.
Lebanon have matches against Iran and the United Arab Emirates coming up on November 11 and 16 and there’s no reason why the 21-year-old shouldn’t be called up again.
Ghandour has enjoyed a rapid rise, going from Isthmian League football with Tooting & Mitcham to Charlton and international recognition in the space of a few years.
Born in England to Lebanese parents, Ghandour’s pre-season form caught the attention of the national team boss.
“Both my parents are Lebanese,” said Ghandour, who speaks fluent Arabic. “My dad moved here at 12 from the war in Lebanon.
“I had a really good pre-season at Charlton and the media in Lebanon were putting up my highlights, my goals and my assists.
“I was on the bench for the first league game against Sheffield Wednesday, and the manager called me up for the first round of World Cup qualifiers.
“I trained well and got my debut against South Korea.
“He called me up to the last round as well, I didn’t get on, but it’s great to be around it.
“It was the ultimate dream to play for my country and let’s hope for more call-ups and more minutes.
“I’m not going to lie, I didn’t think I’d go this early but the manager’s called me up so I’m grateful for that.
“When I sit back and think about it, it’s crazy to think where I’ve come from but that’s the product of hard work. I’ve still got a lot more to give, this is just the start hopefully.
“We’ve got games on the 11th and 16th of November so we’ll see if I get called up.”
Ghandour’s loan move from Charlton had already been agreed by the time Nigel Adkins was sacked last week, with the Addicks struggling in the bottom four of League 1.
He’d been out of the first-team picture and just wanted to play.
The forward looked sharp on his Stones debut, despite the 2-0 defeat by Dorking, and put in another good shift in a 0-0 draw at Dulwich Hamlet on Tuesday night.
He said: “I was playing 23s football and doing well, I think I scored three goals in five games and had three assists, but I’ve played men’s football before for Tooting & Mitcham, I’ve loved the competitiveness and the physical aspect of the game, so I wanted to get out on loan.
“Maidstone was the option and I jumped at it straight away.
“Charlton obviously didn’t get off to a great start, two wins in 13 games, but the atmosphere generally within the group, and all the staff, is positive, the fans are absolutely brilliant as well when they get behind the boys.
“It’s a massive club and a pleasure to be there and hopefully in the future I can be a starter but I’m focused now on Maidstone, trying to get some goals and get us back up the table.
“I played in pre-season, got a goal against Reading and an assist against Palace, was on the bench for the first game against Sheffield Wednesday and we just kept signing players, so I slowly got phased out of the matchday squad.
“I trained with them every day until two weeks ago, when the squad just got a bit too big.
“It was quite a tough few months, the crowd were getting a bit restless and they’re entitled to do that, they pay their money to watch us, it was tough but hopefully the boys can turn it around.
“I trust them and they’re all good players.
“It was a bit frustrating not getting a chance but I’ve got to remember I’m still 21, we’ve got some very experienced players up there, Jayden Stockley for example, and it’ll be hard to take their shirt.
“But all I can do is work hard, get my head down and keep going. That’s all I told myself.”
Maidstone visit Hungerford this weekend.